Volleyball Sweeps Opening Day with Dramatic Win

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The University of Miami volleyball team completed the sweep of day one of the Southern Miss Invitational with a 3-2 victory against the home team in the Reed Green Coliseum Friday night.

The challenge presented in front of the Hurricanes (2-0), who won the first match of the day against Little Rock in four sets, was even greater in the nightcap. The Golden Eagles (1-1) won the first two sets of the match and were within three points of tying the all-time series at one apiece, but Miami, led once again by senior outside hitter Olga Strantzali, managed to pull off a 24-26, 22-25, 25-22, 25-12, 15-13 comeback. This way, the Canes recorded their 10th consecutive 2-0 start to a season.

“We were in a couple of tough battles and I am proud of the girls and the way they handled it,” head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara said after the first day of his fifth season in charge of the program. “We didn’t play our best, but we did some good things at the right time. A lot of credit to them. We are learning a lot about our team.”

Strantzali’s 22 kills matched her first-match performance, but she provided two more aces (4 total) and six more digs (9) thand she did against Little Rock. Sophomore and freshman outside hitters Elizaveta Lukianova (16 kills) and Cameron Dobbs (14 kills) joined Strantzali in double digits. The performances were career-best for both of them. Dobbs completed her first intercollegiate double-double with 13 digs, which was tied for most in the match. Senior libero Sylvia Hernandez, who finished in double figures for digs in both of Friday’s matches, contributed 10 digs against the Golden Eagles to make it 29 digs for the day.

Redshirt junior setter Haley Templeton, who also had 13 digs, dished out season-best 50 assists for the win. She also added a block assist to her night’s worth of work. Miami’s other setter, sophomore Hannah Sorensen, tied her career-best performance of four service aces off the bench.

Middle blockers Lucia Pampana and Madison Dill led the blocking efforts with two blocks apiece. Pampana finished the match with eight kills and a team-best .353 hitting.

The first set was an attacking showdown and a total of five players finished it with at least four kills. As a result of a 5-0 run by Southern Miss late on, the Hurricanes faced a quadruple set point at 24-20 with no timeouts left. There was more drama left, however, as a kill by Strantzali, who led Miami with five in the set, and three errors by the Golden Eagles took the set to extra points. The home team responded in the best possible way and won the following two points to take the set 26-24.

In the second set Miami jumped out to an early 8-5 lead, but Southern Miss came back to level terms at 10 apiece. The Canes responded with a 3-0 run, which put the momentum back on their side of the net and allowed them to extend their cushion to four with a kill by Dobbs, 18-14. Just like in the opening set, Southern Miss found a way to orchestrate another late 5-0 run for 19-18 and with that to turn the tables once again. Kills by Strantzali tied the set up at 19 all and then at 20 apiece, but the home team demonstrated more composure in the decisive stage of the set, winning it 25-22 and extending its lead in the match.

Even though the Canes started the third set with an ace courtesy of Templeton, neither team could establish dominance. After having three two-point leads canceled out earlier in the set, Miami had to play from behind once again in the third set, 20-18. A kill by Catherine Repsher increased the Golden Eagles’ lead to three at 22-19, but a late spurt by the Hurricanes won them the set 25-22 and kept them alive in the contest.

The Hurricanes got going early in the fourth set and never looked back, trying to find a way to a fifth set. A 7-0 run early on gave Miami an eight-point cushion at 12-4. The Canes’ domination materialized into a 13-point lead after only six Southern Miss points, 19-6. Miami went into the fifth set with a block by Dill and Lukianova, who had five kills in the fourth set alone, for 25-12.

Southern Miss won the first two points of the decisive set, but Dobbs and Pampana had something to say about that. Each added a kill and then they united forces for a block to give Miami its first lead in the set, 3-2. Three-straight Golden Eagles points made it 5-3 and set the tone for the following few minutes. Big-time kills by Strantzali tied the score on three consecutive sideout opportunities, lastly at 9-9. It was then Kylie Grandy’s turn to take the spotlight, making the score 12-9 after a kill and a solo block. But Miami would not be denied on the opening day of the season: the Hurricanes ended the match on a 6-1 run that featured kills from Lukianova (2), Dobbs and Pampana.
Sorensen saved the best for the last and picked up the team’s 11th ace of the match to end the contest, 15-13.

“It was a huge win,” Gandara said. “This early in the season anything can happen and coming out with a win in such a close match is something we can learn from.”
The Canes complete the Southern Miss Invitational against Nicholls State, Saturday at 11 a.m. EST.

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